Silvia’s Garden: Scilla Siberica

With the recent arrival of spring, the plants from Silvia’s gardens reach up through the soil in a welcome burst of green. The delicate petals of her spring ephemerals bob merrily in the breeze. Silvia’s plants are what kept her in my thoughts, and drew me, ever more curious, to her story; they were the roots, awaiting bloom.

In Silvia’s garden, it was a swath of blue – an Estonian blue – that heralded the arrival of spring. Silvia’s “spring beauties” were so expansive, she surely had planted the first tiny bulbs when she moved to the village in the eighties; each year the blue of her homeland spreading farther in the soil of Vermont.

Silvia was remained deeply connected to Estonia throughout her life, and many of the stories she wrote, from her childhood especially, can be mapped and illustrated with the plants in her garden; her memories renewed in each blooming. As a natural linguist, fluent in six languages, including Latin, Silvia knew many common names for plants and she certainly knew the scientific name for spring beauties: Scilla siberica.

Siberia, the uneasy resting place of her father. Deported to Siberia in 1941. A grave she would never know.

Did the Scilla siberica prompt thoughts of her father, the little blue flowers an associative memory? Where her thoughts like my own as I watch her plants grow?

This year, I urge you to plant a memory. Tell a story in bloom. Let it grow.



Scilla siberica is an easy to grow perennial that naturalizes rapidly by bulb offset and seed. It’s extremely cold hardy, (imagine that, being from Siberia), growing well in most conditions. Scilla are commonly planted in lawns and are unharmed by mowing. But all of this can be found in a quick online search. The most fascinating thing to know about Scillia is its blue pollen. I’m running out now to have a look.


Silvia’s Scilla siberica (spring beauty) beginning to naturalize with Sanguinaria canadensi (bloodroot).

2 thoughts on “Silvia’s Garden: Scilla Siberica

  1. I love these flowers covering spring lawns. I tried to determine what they were years ago while living in Bloomington, IL. The nursery sales person I asked was adamant that they were grape hyacinths. I knew he was wrong but never could find the right answer. These are those flowers I had been wondering about. Now to find some to add to my lawn. Do they need to be planted in fall?

    1. Planting in the fall is best, but not always necessary. I’ve transplanted bulbs mid-season out of necessity, putting them right back into the soil after being dug up, and they have done perfectly well the following year. When you plant them put them in small bunches of 3 – 4 bulbs with a fair space between the bunches. Allow them to meet in their wanderings and you will have a nice spread with a little time.

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